Will Collins: Writing for Apple+ Premiere Animation Wolfwalkers (#271)
Our Guest Today: Will Collins
Will Collins is a Film and TV Writer. His works include WOLFWALKERS, SONG OF THE SEA, ANGELA’S CHRISTMAS and MY BROTHERS.
Will appeared in an earlier episode of the Feisworld Podcast. Listen to it here.
In this livestream, we’ll be discussing his most recent work called WOLFWALKERS, premiered on Apple+ in December 2020.
We’ll be covering Will’s creative journey as a film and TV writer over the years, how the pandemic has impacted his work and projects, and what he has learned in the process.
Watch Our Interview
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Feisworld podcast helps independent creators live their creative and financial freedom. I’m your host, Fei Wu, and I’ll be taking you through a series of interviews with creators from around the world who are living life on their own terms. Each episode is packed with tactics, nuggets you can implement origin stories to make listening productive and enjoyable.
We’re not only focused on the more aspirational stories, but relatable ones as well. We also have none interview based miniseries releasing throughout the year to help Deep dove into topics such as freelancing, marketing, even indie filmmaking that would benefit creators like you.
Show notes, lengths and ways to connect with the guests are available on Feisworld.com. Now onto the show. Hey, everyone, this is Fei Wu from Feisworld Media, I’m here with screenplay writer writer Wil Collins from who’s based in Ireland, and we’ve been talking for a number of years now and will first appeared on today’s World podcast, I believe in twenty, seventeen, twenty, eighteen. It’s been a while and. Yeah, yeah. So I have to have you back Will because I’m in love with a trilogy.
I’m in love with The Secret of Kells, in love with Song of the Sea. Loved it so much that I started drawing the little characters, all the characters on my iPad with a stylus. And most recently what happened was I turn on Apple TV two days ago and I saw the wolf walkers. And I remember from when we talked three years ago, you’re already working on that and then immediately jump down like, oh my God, it’s Friday.
I got to watch this weekend and I immediately start emailing you. And I was like, oh, this is amazing. So welcome back.
It’s great to chat to you again. I remember that conversation was a lovely with a lovely chat because I thought it was lovely because when I when I got off it, I thought I sounded so stupid there. But then I listened to the finished interview and you did a great job editing our conversation down. You just got rid of all my arms and eyes and all that. And so you did a fantastic job. So, yeah, you make me look good.
I’m so glad to talk to you again.
You sounded so good. And I we have to thank our producer, her mom, for doing such a phenomenal job. Know, the one thing I’m going to misquote you in just a second, but there’s things that you said. It’s like the painful truth that brings everything together for some of the CIA.
Yeah, yeah. That was a big thing. One of my kind of early lessons in screenwriting know, I was very fortunate to kind of come across this. I think everyone has their own concepts and how they make their own bread. You know, and one of my concepts that I kind of like lean on a lot, one of them is to your characters to have a deep, painful truth. That’s the journey that they are going to undergo, will expose that and heal that essentially.
You know, and it’s kind of helped me through all of my stories and all of my films. And, yeah, it’s to see definitely and and will focus as well. Yeah.
And OK, let’s talk about Wolf Walker. I feel like the moment I get into soundlessly, I have to I told my mom we’re going to we’re going to have a movie night and we’ll have to watch that. So again, so Wolf Walker, the story is amazing. For those of you who are watching this conversation, I will be sure to let you know at which point we’re going to give away some of the plots and things, bits you haven’t seen.
But I highly recommend it. I also want to let people know that to me, someone in my thirties right now in my mid thirties, it feels so special. It brings back to my childhood as strange as it sounds, because I grew up in mainland China. And yet I’m watching I’m watching those Irish kind of folk tale, very different types of animation. I just love the handwriting, the fact I love how raw everything is. It reminds me it just literally brings me back to childhood.
Yeah. The story is so sophisticated and captivating that I’m utterly satisfied. But for someone my age and I showed it to my friends, to kids yesterday, six and seven years old, and they were just as engaged as well as well as my mom in her late sixties.
Well, that’s great to hear. And I suppose maybe the the maybe that’s really a testament to the ethics and the principles of the studio cartoon saloon. The directors of this, Tom Tom born Rod Stewart, they were actually bought from Kenny in Ireland and they actually grew up together. They were in school there and they used to do drawing competitions and whatnot. And a group of them went to an after kind of youth group called Youth Filmmakers. And from there they were making sharpies, but they had a deep for animation studies, animation college together in Firmat, which actually was the old that that building was originally done.
Blue Studio, who made the dogs go to heaven and American Tail and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were made in Dublin, Ireland. I’m sure the the original series, I’m sure people didn’t know that. And so they were around the same age as well. So they kind of very much came with Tom started the company then with Paul Ryan and Noor to me also in the college with them. And they came up with a kind of a kind of an idea that they were going to do their own to the animated stuff, even though at the time Hollywood was veering away from Tuti animation, Disney was kind of on its last few Tuti animated films and the golden age of the 90s Lenders’.
The Lion King was a huge success and data, a great run of a sequel to the animated film Once Toy Story came along, that changed everything. And then really when DreamWorks came up with Shrek, it just totally got poor. Trute was on the ropes. But despite that, the character was given Tom and the other producers, they devils to make their own film and did it series and commercial work to keep themselves going. And so all of their stuff has really been kind of tuti.
But CGI has been used. This is used in celibacy and Kjus in them and Wolf AKAs analysis and very nice. Kind of like synergistically within the actual storytelling side of it, I suppose. So we’ll see our influences. We’re obviously hugely influenced stuff from from from the Studio Ghibli and we’re also seriously influenced by the classical Western stories. And I think for me anyway, Wolf, it’s our attempt to really tell a very, very classical Westernize like, you know, Hero’s Journey story, but using the absolute every possible to they could in the realm of animation to tell that story in the most visually striking way that they could.
So delighted to hear that work for you.
Yeah, I actually I just felt like as a creative entrepreneur, a lot of people are listening to the show are a, you know, a form or a type of creative entrepreneur. Whether they could be they could be a poet, they could be writer, filmmaker, designer or coaches. And and so to us every day, especially in the year, twenty, twenty, we’re taking a lot of risks. And for me to witness a 2D animation in the year twenty twenty, I find myself kept repeating that, articulating that to my mom who is an artist to my friends, to say it is so special on the surface, like, you know, cartoons alone is taking almost a risk of picking the identity that is so different than what we’re used to these days.
Everything is 3-D, everything’s super flashy. And also I find that American animators have their own unique way of telling a story like at the beginning, there’s something really dramatic happens. You need a hook, but something about the way that you wrote the story as well with the dialog. Is it just something really subtle that I find at the same time also very captivating without being overly dramatic or sensational? So I don’t know how you’re able to achieve that.
Like what kind of mindset or how did you condition yourself to write for something like this?
Oh, it’s a big question, and I suppose if you’re talking about the character and character arc and whatnot, and really for me, I try and make the characters as believable for me, to myself as I possibly can. I try and empathize with every character on screen in some way. I try and you have to because for me, I’m the person who really I’m starting with a blank page. There’s nothing on the blank page. And my job is to imagine the first you do the first imagining of the movie of the potential movie and bring life to the screen, bring life onto the page and just like a text.
And it’s it’s very difficult. But what I do is I suppose I say, yeah, that’s it. I kind of draw from personal experiences. I know that we’re all humans and we all share the same emotions. We all have the same feelings, but in different contexts to really relate to our own lives. So I kind of pull on past experiences like, you know, obviously I’ve never been a 17th century English girl in Kilkenny and I never will be or or a wolf or a protector or trying to pacify and tame the Irish landscape.
But I try and find a way into those characters. And I suppose it’s just a process of making the characters believable, making their motivation believable to myself and and and kind of understanding who they are at the core, making them as real as they possibly can and not be patronizing to them. I think that’s it for me.
Yeah. So, you know, I’m going to ask a silly question because I’ve never really been writing for any movies or films. Needless to say, animation. When you say you look at a blank screen, what are you given assets or a visual wise to begin writing or do animations come after you write or do you have some sort of characters and plot lines before you write?
Now, that’s a any question is a good question, especially if it’s a perfect question, because so when I start the genesis of how it all develops is and in this case, the directors, Tom and Ross, they had the idea of sitting there as upset in the film, doing the film together that was set in Ireland in the sixteen hundreds because there was a local legend about the werewolves of Ussery. They kind of thought it was a kind of a true legend and also then sixteen hundred.
And it was a very turbulent and brought time for the Irish. We experienced severe colonialism and the effects of and Robert Oliver Cromwell the a rule here. So what happens is they they put together a kind of an idea. They say, OK, right. We’ve got a set a story here and we it’s going to do werewolves or this werewolf myth about people who can basically not chipwich. Their will is going to leave their bodies when they sleep. And and they kind of had an idea of maybe this could happen.
So it’s like a one page idea of what you could do. And then I we they brought me on board very early on. This was even before Solinsky was finished. And we just sit around a table and we start talking, talking to what the story could be, how the plot would work. And we between the three of us, we hash out the plot, we share documents, and we literally start hashing out like, you know what this is what this what the plot possibly could be and come up with a an outline of the story, which would be a few pages long.
And once we were kind of happy with that, then I just sit down and open up a blank screen and find out what fade and document I was using and just start writing, writing, writing the actual screenplay just slowly. OK, what’s the first shot? What’s was going to happen? How is this actually going to play on screen? So in my head I’m literally imagining I really saw what the guys are doing then is they they will in concert with me before even maybe when I was started, they had started a great concept that the world had already started to kind of like create the visual language of how the city might look and what the character design.
So I had an idea of what the characters would look like, what what the city would look like and what the words would look like. And there was just gradually they shared a little office down in the studio. And every time I would go down for a story meeting, they would just be more and more pictures on the walls like, you know. And so every time I went, there was great for a visual reference because I went, OK, I know how vivid this is going to be.
I know what the city might look like. So then so what I’m thinking about when I’m writing the screenplay, I’m thinking about, OK, what’s going to be on? What are people going to see right now? What’s the action on? Wanted one of the characters going to say what’s going to happen? So I kind of like I write I write a version of the film in my head and I just lay that out on the page and I like what happens and what the characters say and the whole you should be able to just read the story from beginning to end, beginning to end and have the whole story of the film being told you are true to the screenplay.
And that’s kind of my job.
And Will, you’ve been doing this for a long time and even just for these three trilogy that we’re talking about. Yeah, that’s something.
Well, yeah, well, I didn’t I didn’t write the first movie. I didn’t write the secret of course, but I came on board for someone to see and the guys that St. Thomas started on two thousand I might be right in saying two thousand that came out in 2010 and I think it was 2010 and I’m pretty sure it was. Well, I started on some of the sea in two thousand eight in October, November 2008. That came out in 2014.
So that was six years. I started on Woolfolk before starting to see finished. That was 2013 and it came up this year, two thousand twenty four, seven years, six years, seven years. So the development and production lifecycle of these are extremely long and but ultimately it’s worth us.
Absolutely. And I just it just occurred to me that for people who are watching or listening to this and if you happen to be Chinese or of Asian descent, I feel like there’s something very unique about the stories or the films by, you know, Will and his team are just incredible to us because we grew up with so many tales and unfortunately, so many of them are just no longer being told we’re the only ones you hear are Mulan. But in reality, there are just so many folk tales.
And I love them. And I feel like there is part of my childhood that’s kind of left me behind because not in the modern world, like so little of these stories are being shared or paid attention to. I don’t know how much of is being passed on to the next generation and something so mystical. I felt like that I was living in it. I thought, OK, how cool would it be for these girls? I don’t know how old they’re supposed to be.
Ten, twelve years old to. To about, right? Yeah. Yeah, so they’re so it’s just fascinating. I’m going to come back to it like a writing question. I’m I’m trying to work on my own book. And I work in a book is very different than perhaps writing for film. And I’m also very much into comedy. So I heard that there is a technique where there’s almost like a requirement that every nine seconds, eight to nine seconds, there needs to be a joke, need to be a moment so the audience can stay engaged.
And I just thought to myself, like, how crazy that that amount of work must be. It seems so simple.
Well, yeah, I’ve I’ve never heard that rule and I’m glad I never heard that because I would drive to say I think honestly, there’s a lot of rules are made that are made up that are there to drive people insane. I think there’s enough enough for me that the longer I’ve gone on my career, the more I realize there are fewer and fewer rules. And, you know, it’s it really is you know, it’s all about into your own instinctive storytelling.
And maybe maybe it’s due to the fact that I’ve been doing it so long that my own instinct of storytelling is kind of become sharper and sharper. But it’s definitely where you can see it. In the beginning, I used to look at an awful lot of story books and books about story and screenplay writing, stuff like that. And I never really found very much use until I actually I really started writing my own stuff. And the best lessons you get is from doing your own stuff and making your own mistakes and kind of coming up with your own formulas, your own rationale, your own kind of principles of like, OK, this is how I did this.
But it doesn’t necessarily will apply to anyone else. It’s just it worked for me this time and another time and it might not work for you again. But I think, you know, to know two books are the same and No. Two screenplays in this game. No. Two writers of the same. Everyone’s got their own technique and everyone’s got their own way of getting to the finish line. I think that’s the most important thing I can already feel.
This is a sound bite I’m going to pull out for this episode. I get so excited when you say this, because even recently, just for my email newsletter, I decided I’m going to write the way I write. I’m not going to copy any formulas. I’m not just going to talk about other people. I want to share my own journey no matter how it makes my audience feel. If they don’t like it, maybe they’re not the right audience for me.
And that just that was a game changer. People start replying whenever they get an email. We dove into deeper conversations. So thank you so much for pointing that out, because so often we’re like we just feel like there’s we got to write for The New York Times. We got to we got to please turn The Wall Street Journal. We got to collaborate with these people. But I every time I look at your film, for example, I just knew I was going to be good because I know that nobody else will write like this, nobody else or anything like this.
This is not going to be a cookie cutter story has been told before.
And that’s a really good point. And like the gas thing about our story is like our story in our film is you can you can predict all the bits of our story from from the beginning. What is not about the beats of the story. It’s about how you tell your story. I think that’s more important, as our stories told you, versus the because you can distill all stories down to the exact same points. You can kind of what you just thought was beginning middle names.
And, you know, and for me, I go into most films go I literally I go into every film I watch with my screenwriter brain switched off. I am just there. And and generally all stories are generally the same. But as long as they’re entertaining me, as long as they’re engaging me, I don’t care. I just don’t care. As long as I’ve been told something that’s that’s moving me in some way or entertaining me or scaring me, whatever, make me laugh.
And it’s as soon as I think as soon as basically something goes awry in the story, does my screenwriter brain start to kick in? And I know it’s subconsciously kicks in and it’s more of a panic. It’s a sense of panic, of an internal kind of feeling of something’s not right. Something that I need to fix this. I was like, oh, God, trouble. And it’s weird. And as soon as that kind of instinct kicks in, when I’m watching something, I know that there’s something about the story not working for me, but I’m not kind of like sitting there confusing the plot or not.
They’re kind of mapping it out in my brain. I’m just I’m just I just want to be entertained. And most people just want to be entertained, engaged with and I suppose being spoken to in a kind of a truthful way as well. And sincerely, sincerely, because if you try and mimic mimicry is fine. But if you’re trying to mimic, you get seen you’re seen through very quickly. So the only thing you can really lean into is your own kind of unique perspective, your own unique.
And that’s what makes you and your stories different to everyone else’s, as you were, you are slightly different flavors and you’re a little different characteristics that you have and. Yeah, that’s what I kind of lean on.
Yeah, I you know, you nailed something as you were talking. I realized the reason why I love this so much is I knew obviously it’s an Irish story. I still haven’t been to Ireland. And I know physically I have not been in those situations. I’m not a seventeen hundred sort of. You’ve never been in that environment yet. You can easily swap out the the two characters for them to be two Chinese girls, to be two American girls.
And it still would be so relevant and captivating. I didn’t really send this question over ahead of time. What have you did you happen to watch? There was a new animation on Netflix called Over the Moon. It’s about I’ve ever heard of that.
I have. And I must watch it. My kids watch it when I was trying to get some work done that I must watch. That is as a good.
OK, here’s the thing I would love for you to tell me what went wrong. OK, do me I mean, your kids are very young. I know that. But even I invited my mom and my friends over to to what I was so excited because the main character name is Faith. I’m like, yes, 30 years later, there’s a character Fei Wu named after me. I post on social media and I watch it in the beginning, like the first 15, 20 minutes were amazing.
And then there comes a point. A lot of people watching this may disagree with me. And I just completely lost interest. And I said to myself, I got to watch this because I have this thing about Asian characters and Disney movies. I feel responsible for supporting the film and I try to restart that film eight different times. I just couldn’t do it. Whereas for the Wolf Walker, like, honestly, even if I didn’t know you, I would there was absolutely no point in that movie I would ever step away.
And even you just said that at the beginning. You know, you probably know what’s going to happen. Maybe it will be a happy ending. No, there were many plot twists, which I will again, I will remind people like I did not see how things were going to come together. I was very surprised, like three times.
Oh, good. I’m glad that’s correct. Yeah.
So please let me know what happened to that. I would love to know what actually happened to the film. Like it just. I don’t know whether it was the animation, was the script, it just like it just fell apart so quickly and then, you know, I think you know exactly which point you’re referring to.
I’m going to watch it. It’s a it’s a small miracle. Like, you know, making films is an incredibly hard thing. And and I haven’t gone through the process. Now, it’s incredible to get anything major. So I’m I’m very compassionate to anyone who tries and endeavors to do something like that, because at it’s hard. It’s so, so hard. And you don’t know as well what you don’t know as well. What order. I was very lucky in the case of someone to see and character and learn that I was working.
I was working the character and knowing who their creatives are leading the studio. And I’m TOMS directors, those films that he’s a co-owner of the studio. So when it comes to the development and the creative decisions, we’re very much kind of protectors. We’re very much, very much creative led. So the decisions that are taken are really even though we would have disagreed on many, many things, we would have had plenty of disagreements. And but ultimately everyone was doing everyone’s points or everyone’s, I suppose, point of view was always for the betterment of the the story or the ultimate.
So I don’t know what the development of all of these are, factors that could have had an effect on us. And I will watch this. And I’ve heard nice things, but I’ve heard that this is nice. So you’re the first person I’ve actually references who kind of said, oh, it doesn’t really work for it.
Yeah, I would love to. I know. I love to hear your feedback on how I felt us, which we’ve all been there and I did my film. I think after our conversation I ended up producing a documentary. And people say that the only now, the only the harder thing than putting together a documentary is to find money for it. So for me, it’s watching over the moon. It’s like, wow, this started let’s just say, you know, one hundred million whatever dollars involved.
And then halfway through the film, I’m like, do they run on a budget for this part or something like, oh dear, I just felt that’s how I felt. But please don’t let it ruin it for your kids. They might have loved the film. It somehow just didn’t come together for me. And I think not just I’m not just necessarily stomping on this film, but I’ve seen those after the first episode. You’re like, I’m done with this series.
There is. I’m not interested in finding out what happens. Like after the pilot, there’s no story left or season. Too often for many shows, you just fall flat. And sometimes I come back to season three. Sometimes they don’t. But I’m going to like I’m going to poke around and I will tell my my viewers right now, if you haven’t seen it, you might want to turn off, because I will come back definitely come back later because I’m going to ask some of the plot related or conflicts related questions for me.
So thank you for that. So so Will, you just mentioned that you may have either conflicts or disagreements with with your team members. Everybody’s there for the best of the movie. But what are some of the players? Would you do you still remember that you thought where you wanted to go one way, but were argue that they should go some other way, like it’s all plot point wise? Oh, you mean with regard to developing the story?
I’m just trying to think what we’re like. I think our I think our disagreements were very trivial. Like I ultimately think they were very I think ultimately we’re all pulling the same direction. But there might have been like instance where we say. If I can, I honestly, I’m finding it hard to resist what it’s been seven years, I’ve had to we’ve had two kids and so what I’ve got I’ve got a Swiss cheese brain right now. So there’s like big gaps there.
What I know, like what would happen in every when you’re having a creative discussion because the very nature of having a great discussion, you’re throwing stuff out there and then someone put it. But most of the stuff I would throw out there would be rubbish, really like bad ideas. And that’s like the the very essence of being creative is you kind of have to be in a kind of a mindset where you have to be able to just like throw all of the ideas out there.
Because if I if if you’re what if you’re in a kind of a a closed mind state of thinking, then you really aren’t going to get to that kind of place where the real good idea is. So you have to feel free enough to be able to to let the silly ideas out there. And I can I can only point to myself, let me think about that ideas that I have. And I know I had bad ideas all the time, but it’s a bit like when we’re in a good state where where we, let’s say, a decent enough relationship, where we would be able to just say, nah, that’s silly or that won’t work.
Or or that’s a great idea. But if someone had a great idea to go, you know, and what do we have plenty of like I think I can if you’re talking about a specific plot points, I can tell you one of the biggest changes that we made, which wasn’t difficult, was for the first couple of drafts. Robin was actually originally a boy. So the first few weeks, first few drafts of the story, Robin was originally a boy.
And I remember my very first the very first pages of the very first draft I wrote there on the flight back from the world premiere of Song to See in Toronto. And I’m usually I usually hate writing in a room with other people. I feel really self-conscious and I just don’t like it. I just need to be I just need to be on my own, feel like no one’s looking at me and looking over my shoulder so I can just type badly.
And I knew that the people sitting around me on this flight, they weren’t English speakers, so I knew they weren’t going to be reading or I thought they were reading my screen. So I said, look, they were sleeping as well as long flight. So I said, I’m going to I need to start this script. So I started writing the first few pages and it was this like really I was really into it. I was like going, this is going to be like a Western.
It was going to just going to be like the opening to once upon a time in the West. There’s going to be no dialog. It’s going to be just all character movement. And it was going to be Robin and and his dad, Bill. And we’re going to see them hunting of wolves. And it’s going to be like samurai jack type sequence. But we’ll see through their actions, their relationship, but also the kind of like the feelings in the relationship and whatnot.
And in that opening sequence, Robin gets bitten by a wolf in that opening sequence in the story kind of started really quick. And it was a classic sequence. I was so proud of it. It was they always talk about like your babies. And it really was my baby. It was that opening sequence was my baby. I loved, loved writing. And I knew that whatever they would do, they would just turn it into something incredible, you know, put about two drafts in.
We got a note. We got several notes. One was from my friendly, one was from Nora. And she directed Breadwinner out of the corner of Zoom and I maybe someone else. And they said, what if Robin was a girl? And it was one of the easiest notes to take, but also one of the hardest to execute. Because once we heard a lot of Robin was a girl, all of a sudden I kind of like my brain just went through the entire story.
I just went, oh, yeah, that would make that so much more interesting. That would make the drama of the father daughter relationship at this time is far more compelling than a father son relationship. And this time it’s like, OK, because the father son dynamic in what we set up was that the son was supposed to inherit the role of the father. He was supposed to become the father. He was supposed to be hunter. You supposed to be a killer.
But if Robin was a girl also, she should never be with him. Her destiny is to be in the scullery in the castle, and all she wants is to be with her dad. So all of a sudden, it was a kind of a no brainer. No, it was just like, oh, yeah, this feels great. And also, it made my writing of the character of the friendship between me and Robin, because my first I think my first two drafts, the relationship between me and Robin didn’t feel quite right.
There was there was a strange dynamic. But once I made Robin a girl, it was just like the friendship was there. I just it just could feel there the vibrancy between them. No, it was an easy not to take. What the problem was, was that the entire film had to get changed, just even though we held all the same plot points. We everything had to be shaken and and stress tested to see how this is how.
Does this affect our story and and it really was a big, big change, it was this it was a small it’s not what a problem was, but as a result and it was the right nose, but it really took us it took us like it was like turning a big streamliner, trying to get that thing shifted around. We had to go slowly, go through everything and kind of go, OK, does this make sense for the rest?
The story ends. Yes, we saw it made sense to the rest of the story, but what ended up happening is it didn’t make sense for that lovely opening that I had written and a lovely opening that Tom and Ross had also fallen in love with. And we kind of held on to that haunting opening for as long as we could. And I think I kind of gave up. I was kind of thinking earlier on that I think we need to lose.
This doesn’t make sense. And that opening just it we’re trying to make it work. But as we would draft after draft, that scene became more watered down and watered down and just didn’t make sense for the film. And ultimately, you had to kill that baby and we lost that. So there you go. I don’t know if I answered your question, but it’s absolutely love with the way around it.
I’m so glad Robin is a girl because, you know, I think especially as a woman watching this for the first time, it just reminded me of the dynamics between two very young girls, 10 to 12 years old. Yet the storyline reminds me now as an adult woman that the intricacies and the sophistications between women’s relationships that you go from your childhood as best friends to getting into constant arguments. And then, you know, at some point in your life, either you’re you find your partner or you get married, have kids, and it just turn the relationships upside down again.
And, you know, then you think about like sometimes the third among women. What’s sometimes unfortunate is there’s always a bit of a competition that’s I find really unnecessary. And yet it’s always present. It’s always present. But, you know, for for women like I see Robin and maybe like when they come together, they had arguments. And I love how like just pounding in, like, oh, you know, I’m just here waiting for you.
You promise me you’re going to show up. It’s like such a typical girl fight. And then when do come together, they’re there are more powerful than anybody could ever imagine. It’s magical. And I think about the same thing for us women today, like at a workplace where in our personal relationships we could just leave all that junk, all that stuff out and just be osbey, creative, like how powerful we could be. So that’s kind of a message to me in a very selfish way.
Yeah, that’s cool to hear. That’s very lovely to hear. It’s it’s weird. Like, I, I’ve often thought, like, where do they pull to me. Kind of like relationship work. And I really do feel it kind of I drew on my own childhood experience where one of my best friends growing up was a neighbor of ours, Shirley Cremin. And it certainly was like I’m sure she wouldn’t mind me saying Shirley was like a bit of a tomboy.
Right. But I we had the best childhood together. We would go Shirley, myself and my brother, we would just go on these amazing adventures out into the open, through the fields, as we call it, like it and stork and bugs and getting stock and climbing trees and big trees and all that sort of jazz. But I also remember the sense of hope. The when I was making sure we can come to our wall, I remember going, I wonder if Shirley is going to come out to play, you know, and you’re waiting and waiting and going, oh, where are they all?
Were they. But yet I distinctly remember that sense of awe of sitting on a branch in a tree and just talking about telling each other the plots of films we’ve seen or just talking about going on adventures together. And it was a very, very warm and sincere friendship. And and and I think it informs the writing of there Robin and Dave’s relationship for me anyway, and maybe infused with me. It was infused with a little bit of that kind of boldness, boldness we use.
That’s about it. It is a kind of raucousness. And she’s she’s from the other side of the tracks. So she doesn’t have the same social roots as as as Robin as and I’m so glad. But also I have to criticize the animators as well. The animators did an amazing job of well and the good. The performers, the animators did an amazing job of finding little subtle characterizations like that. I didn’t write the screenplay at all. Would like they got the performance.
So animators are like half or more than half of the performance. They don’t get the credit that they deserve. What they would find. Those moments like there’s a moment where they’re sitting on a branch and Robert is brushing his hair. And I said, yeah, no, I. He didn’t write any of that stuff, it’s just just brilliance. That’s what you get when you when you work with really tons of people, maybe tomate or maybe storyboard artist edit or I don’t know who had that idea, but it’s those little decisions.
Those are the nuances of the characters, more death and life and reality. And also on top of that, it’s the casting of the actors like that. It was an honor to see the young actor who plays Robin and me. Eva Whitaker plays me. And I’m not I’m not lying. I was in the room when we’re doing the police records. They nailed every take on that. They gave us the perfect line reading on the first take every time.
No, I don’t know what it was when she did it, but like, that’s one emotional line reading that. And it kind of always choke me up when I was writing it, when when when the character kind of goes after she’s made friends and she goes back to romantic comedies and she’s telling me all about this great friend she’s met. And then she kind of just it just slides into her being really worried about or maybe saying, Mommy, where are you worried about your.
And I always kind of I thought it might work when I brought it and but then I heard Eva like her first line, really there was myself, Tom and Russ and Karen and and the US were all welling up like she just nailed it on the first call. So it’s really it’s kind of a synergy of like all good creative talent working together. It’s great that all this thing. So, again, I’ve hijacked your question. Oh, no.
This is where was going.
This is great. I was wondering that the voiceover actresses I can never tell their age because they truly sound like 10 to 12 years old, you know, with that. Yeah. Are they young women? Are they trained? I’m going to I’m going to miss I’m going to go on this age. Then I would guess that I honor who played Robin. She must have been was she 14 and then she might have been. Ten, maybe nine or ten, I’m guessing she’s very young.
Yes, she’s very young. Now, you might say no, I was actually twenty two, but how is that possible for young kids, nine, 10 years old? You’re just in fourth, fifth grade to internalize the sophistication of these emotions. And the scripts are non-trivial. I mean, these dialogs are not trivial. How do they memorize and do that?
Oh, well, no. In this they didn’t have to memorize, but they had they had the script open for them, but they had their work done. When they came in, they came in fully prepared like they they honestly, I remember. I just I just remember because because the rule of Maev is a much more emotional rule and there’s a lot more like rage and happiness and joy. Yeah. She kept it like she just got every emotion on the first stage.
She knew she was so well prepared. Coming, coming, coming to the lectern in front of being in front of the microphone. She just had it. And I’m the wrong person to actually to comment on it because I don’t know her process. And it was it’s a bit of a magic and a mystery to me as well. Just like Sean been doing Sean Bean and Simon McBurney, who played the Lord Protector. I just sat there and just went, oh, wow, I could never do that.
I don’t know how to do it. But it’s just it was just it was just like it was. Yeah. It’s lovely seeing the magic of life performance in front of you and hearing your characters come alive with these. And that’s what actors are so vital to, getting the texture and and real life that they breathe life into these characters beautifully.
They actually they actually do. That is so fascinating. So, I mean, I here are some of the plot questions. I had it with Robin being those young girl and she fell asleep. And you could tell she just naturally had a heart of just this kind heart. And so I thought this young human girl is going to rescue the wolves and make friends as a human girl. And then, of course, she fell asleep. And then you see this wolf figure and spirit comes out of her.
I’m like, oh, hold on, hold on. She’s one of them. Is she one of them? Is she dreaming about this? And you know, where she has some sort of superpower to be able to relate and connect? So was the intention that she is she is one of them. She is a Wolf Walker herself.
Oh, yeah. Well, we were playing on the because the werewolf myth, there’s a kind of the US version of the werewolf misses. Like, you know, you get bitten by a by a werewolf and you know where the werewolf is that there’s that thing. And then so we kind of we leaned into this and we just kind of said, well, look what you get. If you get bitten, you become a wolf or, you know, you know, I can walk in their shoes.
You literally will walk in the shoes of a wolf. You are one of them. So, yeah, she literally becomes one of their people. And the same thing as with Bill the dads later on when he’s trying to put the big, big wolf back in the cage on the stage. And that’s all very dramatic and emotional. And when he goes to kind of like can put chains basically on me, the big wolf bites bill. And that’s the moment he gets infected or is he not infected?
But he’s now gotten the Walker bug as well, essentially. Oh, yeah. So that’s right. Yeah. That’s kind of how that’s the logic of how we we tried to make it work and just leaning into kind of vigil. Now every culture does in so many cultures, they have their own version of the werewolf myth. And the werewolf myth in Ireland is I like to know if it’s all you actually wasn’t familiar with it. It’s a very localized one that’s been inspired with walkers.
It was both the wolves and Ostry and there were basically people who walkers people. But when they sleep, they they become wolves and that they were shapeshifters. And a part of, I suppose, is the interest to be a part of the the back story of the inspiration for the story was when Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector, the real protector, Oliver Cromwell, came to kind of tame the land and colonized Ireland. Back in this campaign in sixteen fifty, a lot of the most Irish people kind of went along with us and just kind of he came with this very powerful army and he kind of said, well, if you can if you can play ball, you can have a bit of land and we’ll we’ll we’ll keep you.
We won’t kill you. But anyone who resisted or were dealt with swiftly. So a lot of people, a lot of Irish people like fled into the woods. And and also we had quite a large wolf population that was. That lived in some sort of natural kind of balance with the native population as well, because there was enough there was enough woodland for them to hunt and to to get their own feed, which when Cromwell came over, he wanted to agricultural land.
So that meant cutting into the woods, which is literally what’s happening in the movie, like, you know, and that’s what was happening in real life. But when you’re cutting into the woods, you’re cutting into the into the world’s food supply as well. So it creates an issue. So that’s why Cromwellian Reallife brought over hunters to eradicate the wolves. But he used propaganda. And this is kind of like one of the early examples of of reallife propaganda.
He created these like would print posters. And in the wool print poster, it depicted a was standing on its hind legs like a man wearing men’s clothing, human’s clothing. And and it basically was a flier for the hunters to say, listen, we’ll give you five shillings for the for the head of a wolf. But if you come across any Irish people, you know, we actually have evidence to prove that those Irish people are actually wolves as well.
They’re shapeshifters. So if you kill an Irish person, you’re effectively killing. We’ll give you the same again. We’ll give you a little for this. We’ll give you such a prize for a priest. So they were using the propaganda to kind of like to Validus type of genocide. Really? So, yeah. So there you go. Gendering answer for a good question.
This is actually kind of the take us right to one of the questions I have written down. But right before that I was going to say I had a moment of reflection as to why I got a little bit confused about. I just thought like, oh, my God, Robyn and her dad are so special. They didn’t know there was walkers all along. I didn’t realize it was as a result of maybe scratching her while she was like upside down the swing from the rope.
And the reason was, I think an American movies like a Spiderman, for example, the ones who get bit, they keep showing the wound. The wound will light up like keep referring back to it. You’re like, oh, something’s happening. But I think it’s such a light touch that I actually love that because I didn’t I was like, oh, yeah, you got like I didn’t even think about it. But this is one of those retied conversations that people are like, oh, this could happen.
And it was because of that the like.
You know, we we definitely try to I’m that’s kind of nice. We tried to deal with it subtly and not too obviously because when maybe when she bites her name, brings her back home and maybe it’s like I got a Helyar and maybe is trying to reverse any effects. And she’s like, OK, you’re good. Look, get your done. And even her mom kind of brings it up when Robin, as the Wolf Faces, meets her mom in the cage that the Lord Protectors kind of chamber the mother will says only only a wolf walker can create another.
Only a little Fockers bites can make another become a wolf because she says it very quickly. You wouldn’t have picked it up because we I remember actually that line reading was something that was we did a little bit of tweaking of that line reading when we recorded it. And the actress better she had to shoot a little note on that. And we just kind of did a little kind of rewrite on it. And she reads it so quickly and urgently because her motivation is to make sure her daughter is OK.
So it’s kind of if you go back over it, you’ll see it’s there. It’s there. There’s a little shimmering on the wound in her arm and her arm kind of glows just before kind of turns into a wolf or wolf. I will. It comes out. It’s definitely into that.
Yeah. Yeah. I’m going to watch it again for sure. This is so fascinating. So going back to what you brought up the whole time, I was thinking, especially in the past ten years, when it comes to animal rights movement and especially on all the environmental issues, you turn on Netflix, you can’t even avoid the fact that you know how our planet has come to be and what we really got to take actions right now. So I wonder if it was intentional to like a dress or touch upon sort of animal rights or like the bigger environmental issues.
A part of the film was a part of the plot as well. And what your personal thoughts are on that?
Oh, absolutely. And that’s stemming from the directors, Tom and Ross. There they are. They’re both vegan and they’re both huge and passionate environmentalists and animal rights activists. And they know what we’re looking for. We, I suppose, the very nature of the plot kind of. Falls into that, falls into this idea that man is over, over, industrializing the agriculture, over industrializing his farming and basically upsetting the ecological balance of the land that we live in.
So absolutely, it’s one of the central ideas and one of the central themes of the film that kind of like that. How men’s kind of development has really tipped the balance against our own favor against ourselves. Like, you know, we’re missing it for ourselves. That’s just nature. It’s not like us versus them. It’s like we’re all the same. We’re all in the same ballpark looking around the solar system. And then as a result, we’re kind of like really, really messing it up.
And yeah, it was from the get go was always a it wasn’t even a big it wasn’t even something that we talked about that much because we’re always talking about story. We just all knew it was just like inherent in what we were we were trying to say, you know, this lovely I’m so glad I asked that question. So to respect your time, will we have a couple of minutes left? The one and four people were watching those enjoying those.
I’ll be sure to include a link to our previous conversation as well, where I ask you all a lot about the creative process. How well became a writer in the first place, also working the film Song of the Sea, which I’m absolutely in love with. And you can watch for free on Netflix and this one on Apple plus. So one last question, I guess for me is this past year, twenty twenty has been particularly challenging for creative entrepreneurs and some people have done really well.
A lot of people have suffered. And and so I was wondering, what was your personal experience been like and where do you find your inspirations, given their moments of lockdown and and things like that, or how has that changed your life as a writer in twenty twenty?
Oh yeah. It’s made me appreciate long days, uninterrupted days that I used to have before the pandemic happens. And yeah, it’s a very difficult it was very difficult because we have two kids. My wife is also working full time. So and, and our work became when the pandemic pandemic hits, it directly affected her work in a she became incredibly busy and she was indirectly involved with covid with the followers of Corbitt. So it was a kind of an explosion of her work.
So what ended up happening for me personally was I ended up taking over the duties of the child care during the day, which made my so I had to work day to either side of the childcare day so I would get up. But like, I would set my alarm for five thirty and endeavor to get up at that time every day, get a few hours in in the morning. And I went away kind of like then kind of start to properly work.
I would take over to childcare and just burn them out for the morning or myself. And then after dinner when I finished, I’d go back and do a few hours. Now it was by the end of every day. I was always exhausted and every morning was just it was exhausting. But oh, how I how I manage this mentally was I actually just made I literally said baby steps and I said, I’m going to do baby steps. If I can get 15 minutes done at a time, that’s great.
And I would just try and say, I’m going to get a couple hours doing a day, just a couple of hours doing a day. And I would just I was always just kind of even if I could snatch 15 minutes in the middle of the day when they were watching a movie or watching something, I would grab us and all of those at the end of day, if I could kind of kiss a bit of a quarter at an actual time quarter, I would be satisfied enough.
No, it certainly slowed down my process greatly. Absolutely. And also the stress of of the existential stress we all faced and all the other things that happened. It affects your creative mindset. I’m not one of those people who can just block it out and just go, oh, no, don’t worry, I can just do it. Like, you know, if I’m stressed, at least emotionally and I get bogged down by what I would still try, I think.
I tried to work on my mental health. I tried to the actual act of writing, helped deal with it as well, kind of helped me kind of deal with the everyday chores and all this stuff. But no, know, the great thing is that I learned that we’re adaptable. We’re an incredibly adaptable species. And it was me like, you know, I had to do extra childcare and all that sort of jazz. But, you know, we got around just the record school, but we’re still not fully locked up.
We still have that anxiety. But I think that what I did is I just took to where if I could find any bit of time, I would take it. And I didn’t measure myself on the number of pages I wrote or what I did. I just measured myself on the physical amount of time. I sat down and I tried this on about how successful I was. I tried, but I think that was that I kept things going slowly that way.
That’s the way I love that this is. I, I honestly, I always consider I don’t have children. I really consider myself liking children. I do. And I always have a great time with my friends, kids. And yesterday I had a two hour of babysitting experience with probably older kids on yours. There are six and seven years old. And I just remember that, you know, we had to entertain them and organize them the whole time there were here.
I had no idea. So yesterday, everything on my to do list was not checked off, maybe 20 percent of late into the evening. And I got to say that my heart goes out to parents out there. I really had no idea what it was like to be a parent. And for me to babysit someone for just a few hours was really eye opening for me to think about. I complain about how I got up at eight today instead of nine or like I want to work into the evening.
All the freedom I have have in my life that I did not appreciate or even acknowledge.
Yeah, I will say, you know, I’ve been doing it now for a few years, so I’ve developed muscle memory of OK, what? So I can develop the muscle memory of how to deal with situations. So you were thrown into the deep end where you went? I have no idea how to deal with these two people. What do I do? So five years of experience. So it’s a big lesson. If you if I if I an extra couple of kids landed at my doorstep that I didn’t really deal with on daily the basis I would have been in the same situation of like going who are you and what do you what do I need to do to pacify you or keep you entertained or what’s what’s your what’s your deal?
I can also I know my own kids. I know you’re right. Absolutely. The truth is somewhere in between, it’s not as dramatic as I imagine it to be, but I’m so, so glad. When I came out, I thought about your family, your kids, everything we went through. I’m like, oh, thank God. This came out when your name showed up on the screen. Like, Yes, well, you know, I really don’t have you.
It’s great. I think it kind of helped us in an odd way in an odd kind of weird way. I think the pandemic has helped Wolf Fockers, because my my my feeling is well, obviously, all of the big blockbuster Hollywood movies were just ripped away from everyone and just put into putting into put into the drawer till next year. And, well, I kind of feel what’s happened with Will Focus is as a result, those types of stories are big spectacle, classical adventure stories.
And audiences have been kind of deprived of that story this year. So we’ll focus really, even though it’s a relatively small budget film, it really is a big, epic kind of classic adventure story. And I kind of think we’re kind of we’re coming we’re coming at a time where audiences are getting the small, low budget, independent movies, but they’re kind of not getting that kind of like entertaining, like cinema, popcorn, watching movie. It kind of like those classical kind of like adventure stories.
And we’re kind of satisfying that appetite that’s there. So the timing of it kind of has worked in our favor, I feel. So that’s the one point to want to benefit sort of pandemic times for sure.
And for people in your 30s, 40s and 50s, it’s so nostalgic to get back into that like that, just to do it just so beautiful. Everything is a beautifully drawn. And I told my mom I even bought the album for song The Sea. She’s like, what? When was the last time for you to purchase any, like, MPLX series that I actually did with Amazon and bought the soundtrack?
So cool. That’s crazy.
Yeah. So this is so wonderful. Well I feel like I can talk to you forever and we should do this again for sure.
That was lovely. Yeah.
Yeah for sure. OK, I’m going to take us offline. Hi everyone. Leave your comments and we’ll be very happy to answer questions after the show as well. So thank you so much for being here. This episode of the First World podcast is brought to you by Fey’s World LLC, our marketing service agency created for independent creators and businesses. We offer website development, video production, marketing, mentorship to people who want to tell better stories, level up and create a profitable brand phasor podcast team.
Our chief editor and producer, Herman Silvio’s associate producer, Adam Lefort, social media and content manager, Rosta Leon transcript editor Allena Almodovar. And lastly, myself, the creator and host of Face World. Thank you so much for listening.
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